The weeks between graduating from law school and taking the bar exam will be intense. Bar prep will consist of memorizing hundreds of nuanced legal rules, refining your essay writing skills, and completing more practice multiple choice questions than you can imagine. In addition to the sheer workload, the pressure to pass the exam will make bar prep even more onerous and stressful. If you’re a 1L or 2L, you’re probably relieved that you don’t have to spend your summer knee-deep in outlines. But be careful – ignoring the bar exam during law school may make your bar prep even more difficult when the time comes. The bar exam requires you to learn so much law and be so efficient at analyzing legal issues that you should do everything you can to make bar prep less difficult. Here are a few easy steps you can take during law school to improve your readiness going into bar prep and help you feel confident about taking the exam:
1. Take Classes that Cover Bar Tested Subjects
It’s hard enough to simply memorize all the law you need to know for the bar exam without also having to learn the law for the first time during bar prep. You’ll have mere hours, not days or weeks, to understand the definitions and rules for each subject tested on the bar exam, so having a strong foundation in those subjects is important. I promise you, getting a handle on the intricacies of estate planning or the details of setting up a corporation will be a lot easier if you’ve taken that class in law school and aren’t hearing about these topics for the first time during a bar prep lecture. While a lot of the bar tested subjects may not fit with the particular area of law you hope to practice, good course planning during law school can go a long way to improving your bar prep readiness. In addition to taking as many of the basic, core subjects as you can, you can also sneak in some review by taking seminars or electives that focus on a subtopic that may show up on the bar exam. So, you might want to skip that seminar on capital punishment or fashion law, and consider taking the elective in advanced torts.
2. Enroll in Your School’s Bar Prep Course
More and more law schools are offering for-credit bar prep courses as part of their curriculum. Although these courses are sometimes targeted to students with a GPA below a certain cutoff, almost all students will benefit from the review these courses provide. If you’re lucky enough to attend a law school that offers a bar prep course to 3Ls, make sure you enroll. Not only will you be earning credit towards graduation, but you’ll also be forcing yourself to get a jump start on your bar prep.
3. Volunteer as a Tutor or T.A.
Keep those heavily bar tested 1L subjects fresh in your mind by working as a tutor or teaching assistant. If your law school has an academic support program that uses successful upper-class students as tutors or teaching assistants, considering signing up. Not only will it look great on your resume and give you the opportunity to help some fellow students, it will also improve your understanding and retention of the material you learned during 1L year.
4. Make Your Own Study Aids During Law School
The benefits of creating your own outline for law school extend beyond your last final exam. Commercial bar prep courses will provide you with a very large set of outlines and practice questions at the start of bar prep, and while these books will likely be your go-to resources, it’s important to remember that they are designed for a national audience. To ensure that you have a set of materials tailored to your own learning preferences, be sure to make your own outlines and study aids during law school and keep them saved. Then, if you’re struggling to understand or memorize a concept during bar prep, you can easily refer back to your own outline rather than trying to learn from a more generic resource.
5. Work on Your Weakness
By the end of 1L year, your test-taking strengths and weaknesses should be apparent. Once you’ve received your final 1L grades, take some time to reflect on whether you need to work on your substantive knowledge, time management, essay writing, multiple choice, analysis, or some combination of these skills. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, come up with a plan to improve in these areas over the next two years of law school. Because bar prep is so short, you won’t have time to make drastic jumps in skill level, so you need to use the time you have in law school to develop your test-taking abilities.
Studying for the bar exam is a continuous process that starts on your first day of law school, not the day after graduation. If you take a few simple steps during law school to increase your knowledge and improve your skills, you’ll make bar prep just a little bit easier and put yourself on the right path to passing the bar exam.
Check out these other articles for more helpful advice: